Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Armenian-American organizational representatives to discuss the Armenia-Turkey protocols. Her invitation, however, focuses on the grouping of Armenian organizations that have supported the protocols, with the exception of the Armenian National Committee of America.
The invitation sent to the Armenian Assembly of America, the North America Dioceses, the AGBU, the Knights of Vartan and the ANCA is seen as a response to an ANCA-initiated letter by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging Clinton to give Armenian-Americans “an opportunity to share their views with you.”
Aside from the ANCA, all the groups invited to the meeting jointly signed a letter in support of the US-backed protocols.
In his letter Reid also emphasized Armenian-American concerns on the protocol-mandated formation of a commission to study the Armenian Genocide.
Missing from the list of invitees are the North American Prelacies of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Relief Society, the Armenian Youth Federation, the Armenian Democratic League (Ramkavar party), the Social-Democratic Hunchakian Party and the countless other organizations that joined a cross-section of the community in opposing the protocols during mass demonstrations in New York and Los Angeles during the now infamous Diaspora tour by Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian.
In a letter to Secretary Clinton, ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian on Monday expressed “serious concern” saying the invitation to the meeting, scheduled for Feb. 9, “does not represent our traditional community leadership nor does it reflect the widely understood Armenian American opposition to the Turkey-Armenia Protocols.”
“As presently configured, the meeting you have proposed will not serve the vital and worthwhile aim of healthy discourse, and would, at this sensitive moment, in fact be counter-productive. The current arrangement, which, by all appearances, intentionally excludes so many of our traditional community and Church leaders on the basis of their views and values, would set an undemocratic and highly negative precedent,” added Hachikian in his letter.
“Our community’s traditional leadership group, as you may know, met with President Clinton in 1994 and has, collectively, signed a series of letters to the White House over the past two decades, including as recently as President Obama’s inauguration. The organizations that signed our community’s congratulatory letter to President Obama on his inauguration, in addition to the groups that you have invited to meet with you – namely the Armenian Assembly, ANCA, Eastern U.S. and Western U.S. Diocese of the Armenian Church, Armenian General Benevolent Union, and the Knights of Vartan – include: the Eastern U.S. and Western U.S. Prelacies of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics, Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Relief Society, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian International Women’s Association, Armenian Rights Council of America, Armenian Youth Federation, Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural & Education Association, Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union, Tekeyan Cultural Association, United Armenian Fund, and the U.S.-Armenia Public Affairs Committee,” continued ANCA.
“I respectfully call upon you to reconsider your initial arrangements for your first meeting with Armenian American leaders. An open, inclusive meeting – one that allows for the full expression of the Armenian American perspective – will, we are confident, serve all of our hopes and aspirations for lasting peace and justice in the region,” urged Hachikian.
In an August 20 letter to Clinton, the ANCA asked for a meeting with all community members to discuss what was then a “roadmap.”
“Thank you for your consideration of our views. We respectfully request an immediate personal meeting between you and the Armenian American community’s civic, religious, and charitable leaders so that we can address these matters in greater detail.”
Clinton’s and the State Department’s blatant disregard for popular voices of the community and their insistence to meet with a group whose majority has come out in support of the dangerous protocols, signals that the Obama Administration is unwilling to have a serious dialogue about this critical matter that will impact the future of Armenia and the Armenian Nation.
By ignoring the vast cross-section of the community, Clinton’s invitation appears to be a mere gesture to appease her long-time colleague Reid and, once again, tramples on the many Obama campaign promises for inclusion, dialogue and transparency.
Leaders of the organizations that have been marginalized by this invitation should demand that their strong voices are also heard by the State Department and the meeting is not, by and large, a gathering of yes-men who traditionally have parroted the State Department’s agenda in the community.